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How To Remove Your Gel & Dip Powder Without Ruining Your Nails

A step-by-step guide

All good things must eventually come to an end, including your favorite manicure. The removal process can prove just as important as polish application, particularly when it comes to ensuring the health of your nails. In case your favorite salon is booked up or you're considering a DIY removal, here's how to remove gel and dip powder nails without sacrificing the quality of your nails.

Before you begin, the most important thing to consider when pondering a DIY removal is whether you have the patience for the task. Deborah Lippmann, celebrity manicurist and founder of Deborah Lippmann, noted that although you will need some tools, you'll also need to take your time. Removing your gel and powder nails should't be done in a hurry, and it is likely that you may have to repeat some steps or be precise with your removal technique. Ultimately though, with patience comes off a payoff, and you'll find that with a little time, removing your nails at home is relatively simple.

How To Remove Your Gel Nails At Home

Be Sure Your Nails Are Ready

Before you even begin considering the removal of your gel nails, Sally Hansen ambassador Hannah Lee, tells NYLON that you should first make sure your gel is ready for removal, noting that gel can usually last for two weeks. If you notice nail growth or that your gel has lifted, that's a signal that your polish is ready for removal. She specifically suggested looking out for lifting, saying, "That allows for moisture to get under the gel and possibly create bacterial growth."

Gather Your Tools

According to Molly Romah, lead nail tech at Chillhouse, you'll want to begin by ensuring you have everything needed for removal. For gel nails, she recommends having pure acetone, cotton, a nail file and aluminum foil. As an added bonus, you may also want to make sure your Netflix is nearby, as the soaking process may seem to go a lot faster when you have something to watch.

Time To File And Soak

According to Lee, you'll want begin the process by using a coarse nail file to carefully, and slowly, file down the top layer of gel. "You want to focus on removing the top coat and not the actual polish, so make sure to do this slowly," she added.

Once the top layer is removed, apply a layer of cuticle oil to your nails. The oil will help prevent some of the drying caused by acetone, which you'll use to soak your nails in. While some soak their nails in a bowl of acetone, Lee has another efficient idea. "The best way is to soak a cotton ball in acetone then place it on top of the nail. Then, you can cut strips of aluminum foil to wrap the cotton ball around the finger for a secure hold."

Soak your nails for about 15 minutes and then check on the progress. "The gel polish should look as if it is falling off the nail and lifted," Romah said. "The remaining polish should be able to be removed with little to no pressure. If not, go back and soak for another five minutes and try again."

After the removal process, your nails will be a little dry, but it's not cause for concern. "Acetone removes oils from the nail, but it doesn't actually damage the nail bed," Romah said. She suggested applying another coat of cuticle oil or coconut oil, and then you may want to apply some nail strengthener or top coat to give your nails a healthy break until your next manicure appointment.

How To Remove Your Dip Powder Nails At Home

Similar to the longevity of gel nails, dip powder nails will last roughly two to three weeks, Darlene Sritapan, OPI North America Education & Capability Manager, tells NYLON. Although the safest method of removal will always be with the help of a nail technician, Sritapan shared her tips for at home removal, noting that when dip powder nails are left on too long, lifting becomes present, and moisture can great trapped, leading to bacteria in the nail. In order to prevent that from happening, you'll need some tools and time.

Get the Cotton Balls — And Other Tools —Ready

According to Sritapan, you need the following items for removal: cotton balls or pads, an acetone based nail polish removal, aluminum foil cut into squares, a nail file, buffer, cuticle oil, and a nail strengthening solution.

Once you have your materials, begin filing the nail. However, you don't want to file down until you see the natural nail, Sritapan said. Rather, you should still see some color. The key is to file away as much of the powder as you can without damaging the nail.

Wrap It Up

After filing is complete, you'll want to soak a cotton ball in the nail polish remove. Then, place the cotton ball on top of your nail, and wrap the cotton ball and your nail in foil. According to Sritapan, you should soak for at least 20 to 25 minutes, and for even better penetration, she suggested wrapping your hand in a warm towel.

After the allotted time has passed, you can remove the foil and cotton ball, but you want to go slowly and gently. Do not remove the foil from all ten fingers at once, rather do one nail at a time so as to prevent re-hardening of the powder. "The cotton ball or pad should have a gummy residue attached to it. If there is residue left on the nail, take your file and gently roll the gummy feeling dip/acrylic off the nail. Repeat this step on the remaining fingers," Sritapan said.

Clean And Care For Your Nails

After you've properly removed all residue from the nail, you can gently cleanse the nail of any remaining product with a cotton ball soaked in nail polish remover. Then, lightly buff the nails and apply your favorite nail strengthener or cuticle oil as Sritapan said this will help your nails to "stay as healthy as possible until your next visit to the salon."

To make the process even smoother, grab some of the tools recommended for removing gel and powder nails, below.

Sephora Crystal Nail File

Courtesy of brand

Sephora, Crystal Nail File, $10, available at Sephora.

This crystal nail file was made for serious wear and tear, especially when it comes to helping you prepare to remove your gel nails.

Sally Hanson Vitamin E Nail & Cuticle Oil

Courtesy of brand

Sally Hansen, Vitamin E Nail & Cuticle Oil, $6.49, available at Ulta.

Care for your nails before and after removing polish with this cuticle oil.

Ulta Beauty 100% Maximum Strength Acetone

Courtesy of brand

Ulta, 100% Maximum Strength Acetone, $1.69, available at Ulta.

Acetone is a must-have for getting rid of gel and powder nails.

OPI Nail Envy Nail Strengthener

Courtesy of brand

OPI, Nail Envy Nail Strengthener, $17.95, available at Amazon.

Apply this nail strengthener as the final step in your removal routine.

Barefoot Scientist Inner Strength Nail and Cuticle Renewal Drops

Courtesy of brand

Barefoot Scientist, Inner Strength Nail & Cuticle Renewal Drops, $20, available at Ulta.

After putting your nails through filing, buffing, and soaking, these strengthening drops will act as the perfect pick-me-up.

French Girl Cuticle Oil

Courtesy of brand

Chillhouse, French Girl Cuticle Oil, $22, available at Chillhouse.

Featuring a rollerball application, this cuticle oil is easy to apply after removing polish.

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